Schofie

Archive for 2014|Yearly archive page

ACTING: Imagination and Introspective Connectivity – Part I

In On Acting on September 10, 2014 at 7:55 pm

So, we have identified the actor’s tools. I now hope to dive into each tool, and explode it into something practical. However, before we get too far ahead of ourselves, let it be known, no one tool will be enough to carry you as an actor. You need them all. You need to recognize the continuum that exists between them, and sharpen them in such a way that they work in tandem with each-other. Certainly, there will likely be certain tools you rely on more than the others, as each individual is uniquely skilled in certain skills as opposed to the others. You may not have to equally develop all of the tools. But you must not disregard the others, to be well rounded, you will want to actively engage each tool on some level or another. Once again, only so long as it is helpful to you and brings about observable results.

I love Root Beer Floats. They are perhaps the paragon of cultural achievement. Culinary excellence blended in utter simplicity. A euphoric blend of textures, flavors, temperatures, and sensuous palatability served up in simple confectionery genius. Apparently this guy named Robert McCay ran out of ice to serve with his soda way back in 1874, and partnered with an ice cream vendor, thus inventing the first floats. God bless him and his poor rationing-of-ice skills. That’s 140 years ago!

You know the thing about Root Beer Floats? There is a proportional relationship between the two ingredients. (That’s ice cream and Root Beer for you who are way behind) Two little ice cream, and you just have vanilla flavored Root Beer with frigid chunks of slop bobbing about. Too much ice cream, and you only get foamy mounds of ice cream without the refreshing liquidiness that is Root Beer. The trick is too create an iceburg of vanilla chilliness whose peak subtly emerges from a snug ocean of the brown waves of A&W, the summit only vaguely enveloped in the clouds of perfect, amber foam – and you need a crinkly straw – obviously.

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So I just got a brain freeze typing all of that. Are you lost in my metaphor? I am. What was I trying to say, anyway? Oh, yeah. Actors are Root Beer Floats. Our next few discussions will go very much hand in hand, as the mind and body are so intertwined. If you do something to the ice cream, it will effect the root beer. If you do something to the mind, it will effect the body.

That being said, some idiots go to make a Root Beer float, and forget to add the ice cream. I mean, Root Beer is delicious, but it’s not a float without it. Some of you introspective philosophers, analytical literature gurus, and psychological emotion-dissectors just love your root beer, but you have forgotten to add the ice cream. You spend hours in dark closets connecting your “inner you” to the given circumstances your character finds themselves in. You mechanically pick apart nuances in the literature of a play or screen-write. You bleed symbolism, and revel in the philosophical implications of the text. This is the root-beer. It’s the stuff audiences slurp up without actively thinking about it. It’s just there. Delicious to the connoisseur, but the average consumer is there to dig in with a spoon – they can actively engage with the physical. They see your body, they hear your voice. They can’t see or hear the hours you spent researching transgender-norms in Elizabethan London.

This is why I hesitate to start with the mind. Because a novice mistake is to over-think a role. I think I have spent enough time warning against this, so we will dive in – because despite my warnings, I do love my Root Beer.

10659203_10152449562634983_2792271583936868846_n ~j.d. schofield

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ACTING: | The Basics

In On Acting, Uncategorized on August 27, 2014 at 5:36 pm

I am not here to insult your intelligence. We have a broad readership here at the Green Room, and I know some of you reading are veteran actors – the makeup and limelight are no stranger to you. But others of you are only just starting out. And as far as I’m concerned, I feel we all need to have a foundation of terminology from which we can understand each other. If we are to discuss acting, we must first define it.  As I addressed in the previous article, that definition has been evolving for everyone in different ways for thousands of years. I am not claiming to have unlocked the depths of the meaning of the term “acting.” Therefore, we shall be evolving our own working definition of acting throughout the course of this series.

I am a huge fan of simplifying things. Maybe to a fault. But I want this series to be insanely practical. To that end, we are going to boil away all the crap that we are not ready for yet, strip away the cliche’s and preconceptions that are misguiding us, and find the skeleton beneath all that fleshy acting theory.

 

So, Google is awesome. I’m not trying to be scholarly here. I just want to get you thinking. I want a discussion to evolve. And I know you know this stuff. But take a moment and read Google’s attempt to define our craft.

ACT| V. 1.) take action; do something. 2.) behave in the way specified.

N. 1.) a thing done; a deed. 2.) a pretense

 

ACTION| N. 1.) the fact or process of doing something, typically to achieve an aim. 2.) a thing done; an act.

 

ACTOR| N. 1.) a person whose profession is acting on the stage, in movies, or on television. 2.) a person who behaves in a way that is not genuine. 3.) a participant in an action or process.

 

ACTING| N. 1.) the art or occupation of performing in plays, movies, or television productions.

ADJ. 1.) temporarily doing the duties of another person.

Obviously these are all terms we would expect to be associated with the craft of acting. No one is surprised here, right? I didn’t think so. But I bet some of you are a little intimidated by acting. Some of you have found yourselves in a role and you just didn’t know what to do to make it “click.” If you have ever been frustrated on stage, set, or in rehearsal, then I always recommend taking a moment to step back from what you are doing, and ask yourself – “What am I doing?”

Did you ask yourself? Ask it again. What are you doing? Now look at those definitions again. What words do you see perforating each and every definition? What are you doing? – “DO,” “DONE,” “DOING.” Also, “TAKE,” and “BEHAVE.” These terms each imply action. They imply activity. They imply “acting.” Not helpful yet? Seem circular? It is a bit. Hang in there.

Stop acting. Start doing. Get this ideal image of what an actor is out of your head. Are you alive? Are you breathing? Can you move and speak? You are the ideal actor already. The ideal actor is capable of action. Anyone can act. I’m not the first person to say that, either. Get over it. Go do it.

Is this inspiring to you? Liberating, maybe? Not satisfying to you? Frustrating, even? Consider the celebrity whose performances you cherish the most. The only difference between them and you is the status “celebrity.” But “actor?” They share that status with you. You are equals.

Don’t believe me? Let’s examine the actor’s inventory, shall we? Every actor has 4 things. Really, every person possesses them too – well, at least 3 of the 4.

1.) MIND | You can think, right? You can reason, and you can understand. You can study. You can grasp ideas – take them apart and put them back together. You can do basic math. You can hear, and taste, and see, and smell, and touch, and your brain can process that stuff, right? You obviously can read, and even despite my slaughterings of the English language! Congratulations.

You might say, “Yeah, but I’m not very introspective.” Or “I don’t do logic so good.” Or “I hate working my brain, I’d rather go for a run!” If you say those things then SHUT UP. You’re missing the point. The point is you are an intelligent being – and probably more so than you give yourself credit for. Heck, compared to some of the air-heads in Hollywood you might be a freakin’ Einstein. Some of you know you’re rock solid in this category, if so – good for you. Go read another book – or the next category….

mind maze

2.) BODY | Limbs. All the physical senses. A voice. Eyes. A face. I’m not talking about body type’s distinguishing characteristics that determine whether or not you get a specific roll. I’m talking about your flesh and blood person that an audience can see and hear. Especially concerning you live-performance actors – your body is perhaps your greatest asset.

If that is the case, then sure, there are a lot of implications that go along with that. We will delve into them in greater detail later, but here are few things to consider. You got to be healthy. You got to be physically active. I’m not saying you have to be Michael Phelps, but your life should not be completely characterized by activities that require sitting. You got to care what you look like – at least a little. I’m not saying you have to be a Victoria Secret or Calvin Klein model, but you should know what you look good in. You should practice things like basic hygiene. You should learn how to breath and how to take care of your voice…… Okay, so we will spend a lot of time on that one in the future. If you remember nothing out of this paragraph remember this – and basic hygiene – seriously, wash your socks now and again.

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3.) SPIRIT | Okay, so this could get weird, new-agey, and super unhelpful really fast, so i’ll be brief. When we come back to this, we will go into much greater detail. This is sorta what I mean by Spirit. Spirit is characterized by some of the following key terms: Will, Drive, Commitment, Passion, Ingenuity, Creativity, Ethic, Imagination, Inspiration. We will have a pep talk later, but basically, to be good at acting, you have to want it. You have to pursue it relentlessly. These key aspects of your person go deeper than your brain. They are beyond logic and more powerful than reason. They are your Spirit.

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4.) TEXT | This last one is broader than you think. And I don’t mean to be vague, cause we’ll discuss it more in the future. It’s not necessarily words on a page, though often it is. The text of performance is the rich matter that you develop into an artistic form. The potter’s text is his play. The painter’s text is his paint. The musician’s text are his notes. The writer’s text are his words. So what is the actor’s text? It’s life. Ever hear someone speak of an actor “Wow, they really brought that character to life for me!” or ” His performance was just real.” These are indications that an actor understands their text. Some people might say,”Hamlet is just words on a page.” But I would say, the character Hamlet, or any part you may play are words on page, but if he stays there, no acting has taken place. No life has been given. So, what does this mean? How is this remotely helpful? We’ll talk about that more in the future. But for now, just know that you are in the business of life.

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So, have you done a self inventory yet? Every body has the first three. An actor with a job has the 4th. This is your acting skeleton. These are the muscles you need to exercise. You should be empowered to know that you have the same tools any award winning celebrity ever had to do what they do. And what do those actors “do”? They do things. You can to.

Everybody needs to sharpen these tools, and we all can be better. Actors, which tool do you think you need to develop more? Comment and let us know your thoughts.

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by j.d.schofield

Acting and Theatrical Forms

In On Acting on August 18, 2014 at 2:27 pm

So much of art is influenced by culture, and so much of culture is influenced by art. This may seem obvious, maybe even redundant to say, but it is worth noting because the bicameral relationship between the two massively broad concepts is so sticky. Any artistic achievement that has stood the test of time serves as an icon in some fashion to the philosophical undercurrents of the era from which it was birthed – or a symbol rejecting those undercurrents. Often the most notable are the achievements that pioneer revolution, or are the banner from the flagship of a new idea – a cultural armada that seeks to cultivate, sculpt, or reform society in some way. Not all artists actively pursue some political, social, or cultural end, but the way they think and create is directly effected by those themes.

I hope our discussion can be practical. So I don’t want to get too bogged down in philosophy and the cultural influence on how you will approach a role as an actor. But I would be remiss not to recognize it. For so much of our current schools of thought on acting stem directly from specific philosophical perspectives iconic to the time from which they were conceived. You as an actor would be wise to consider it, because when one person says “Diderot’s thoughts on acting are spot on! That is always how I approach a role.” or another says “Strasbourg had it right, man. This is how you should really approach a role.” You need to understand that each individual had a perspective unique to their position in culture and the philosophical and cultural ideas of their time. All of them may be valuable within their own context, but only so long as it is beneficial to you, the artist today.

That brings me to my point for this little snippet of thought. Acting is a progressive art form. What the masses enjoy in performance is perpetually evolving as the culture morphs. What works best on stage or film is ever changing, and the influences on that change are nearly infinite. This is why I might caution against an over-reliance on any one system. It may soon become antiquated, and you will find yourself a dying breed of actor. It is completely acceptable to cherry pick those ideas, concepts, and approaches that work best for you, and abandon those techniques that leave you frustrated or box you in as an artist.

If you have been acting for a while, this is something you should spend some time studying. Really dive into themes like Marxism and Capitalism. Seek to grasp the ideas behind Feminism, and the GLBT movements. Research Naturalism, Realism, Expressionism, Modernism, and Post-Modernism. And not just as pertains to theatre and acting, but specifically how those schools of thought effect culture and art in it’s broad vastness. You will start to see parallels in Theoreticians and the things they believe. You will start to form your own understanding and beliefs, and from your own personal culture you may find yourself developing your own method of thinking, of art, of acting.

If you are just starting out as an actor, forget everything I have said. This stuff is way too heavy. Because at the end of the day, you don’t want to be bogged down by philosophy in the moment of performance, you should be liberated by your method, not inhibited. If you are a novice or amateur, stop thinking and start doing. Seriously, experiment with what works for you, but you need to have done a good deal of acting to understand it’s challenges and applications before you start bothering yourself with all this lofty philosophical crap. And the same goes for the experienced actor, we need to always be careful not to over-encumber ourselves with too much thinking. The point of studying philosophical and cultural influences is to better understand the nature and purpose of art, to perhaps give you a practical vehicle for performance. If it is tripping you up, throw it out, or put it back on the shelf until you are ready for it. Because it doesn’t matter how much thinking you do, it is your body and voice the audience sees and hears, and if they don’t like it, it doesn’t matter if you believe it or not.

I wanted this week’s post to be a precursor to lightly examining theoreticians of the past and present, and I wanted to illustrate how what they have to say may be valuable and may be dangerous. So now that this is out of the way, lets look at a few different approaches.

Life-Philosophy

 

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1920475_10152073790794983_1207531938_n ~j.d. schofield

Schofie on Acting?

In On Acting on August 13, 2014 at 3:17 pm

So…. Actors have been around since the beginning of time. Even if you credit them Greeks with the origins of what we might consider traditional acting – you’re talking 534 B.C. or earlier. Thousands of years. Millions upon millions of flesh-and-blood persons have taken up the mantel of performance between then and now. And now, in an age where performance related media and live performance is historically more  accessible than it has ever been, it seems everyone is an actor. If you don’t consider yourself an actor, you probably have at least done it once. If you never have, you may have considered it. If you never have considered it, you still can’t avoid how greatly your life is affected by actors. They’re in the shows you watch, the features you love, the plays you attend, and the commercials that drive you nuts. They’re on the side of the street waving signs to get your taxes done for free. They’re on the corner of 5th and Main in black-and-white mime attire. They’re in the museum bringing Hammurabi and Abe Lincoln to life.

So, if we have thousands of years of acting tradition, theory, and history – and so many of us are actors today, why are we all so confused about how to do it? If there is anything I have learned after academically studying theatre for the last 8 years, and actively performing in productions in a broad range of functions, it’s that no-body really knows what they are doing. Everybody has ideas, theories, and their own little comfortable method that works for them. Some are dogmatic, others pragmatic, some are systematic, while others are enthusiastic and spastic. And that is fun to say really fast, by the way.

It’s just that acting is such a hard thing to quantify. Traditionally, we can identify an actor. But that’s because we see him in his element. His venue. He’s in my Tv, he’s on the stage before me. He’s behind the glass at the museum exhibit. But what is it he does? How does he do it? You ask any two acting celebrities how it is they do what they do, it is likely they will have two completely different answers.

I am still working out my own thoughts on the matter. I have some strong opinions. I don’t know that I can claim that they are exclusively correct. But I do have my ideas – like anybody else.

This is hopefully the first in a series of thoughts on the craft – my thoughts, others thoughts, stolen and borrowed thoughts. Now that I am done with school, and I am actively performing in the real world, I am starting to actually read those dusty books I hastily skimmed during my Graduate work. So roll up your sleeves, actors, we’re about to get nerdy….

 

hamlet

 

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David Tennant in Hamlet in 2008.

 

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1920475_10152073790794983_1207531938_n ~by j.d. schofield

Joan of Arc

In Play Reviews on April 14, 2014 at 3:56 pm

A REVIEW

 

Joan of Arc. As a child, I was fascinated by the Wishbone version’s sparkly tree and the dynamic but distantly ethereal Joan.

 

In last night’s show produced by Johnathan Schofield and Diana Little, I was moved by a heroic yet accessible and real woman – no sparkly tree needed.

 

The 19th century script by Jane Alice Sargant is a challenging prospect. The text is iambic, yet sometimes more clunky and vague than that of our favorite William Shakespeare. Still, the actors handle their words well overall, with only a few falling prey to the rhythm of their lines or the sometimes overwhelming descriptive deluge. A story like that of Joan needs to be told in a different way than we tell our 21st century stories, and verse fits that bill.

Theatre Arts-Joan of Arc

The play opens during the Hundred Years’ War, a bloody conflict between the French and the English for control of the French throne – a conflict that ironically lasted well over a hundred years before grinding slowly to a halt in 1453.

 

The French heir apparent, Charles, needs help. His position is extremely precarious, and he is willing to give up the chance of a crown rather than risk everything in a war he cannot win. But then Joan comes. And, in the scene many of you are familiar with, she seeks him out successfully in a crowded court, asking him to help her fulfill her divine mission.

Theatre Arts-Joan of Arc

The rest is history, right? Dull, boring words on the pages of those dull, boring books you had to read for high school. Full of long speeches and dusty robes. Right? Wrong!

 

This play impacted me in a way I did not expect. The many characters who love, fight, betray, suffer and die in this story – they are real. Of course, they were based in historical fact, but they are real in an intimate, powerful way that any and all of you will notice if you attend. They really care about the fate of their countries. They really want to accomplish their goals, whether good or evil. They really feel the pain of losing loved ones. And as for Joan, she really wants to do the will of God.

 

There is so much I could say about each aspect of this show, but I can’t go on without giving a word to the crew. Brooke Waters, the lighting designer, had to be very creative because of the minimal electric capacity of the space. Yet, nothing seems lacking in her choices and the lighting creates some beautiful and powerful moments.

 

Austin Phillips’ costumes bring this story forward in time from the 15th century and yet retain some recognizable medieval elements. Visually striking, they added to my understanding of the story.

 

The set was designed by Johnathan Schofield, who also directed this show and played the French Charles. The playing space is a nice size, and the actors use it very well, making the audience feel a part of the action throughout the show. A pair of large gates upstage serve as the entrance to several locations, and the varying placement of a collection of benches really helps communicate where each scene takes place.

Theatre Arts-Joan of Arc

Now to the actors. The cast is large, but some performances deserve special note.

 

Johnathan Schofield, playing the French prince (and eventually king) Charles, embodies the vulnerable yet emerging monarch with special skill.

 

Scott Hull’s Valancour, in love with Joan yet furious at his failure to win her, brings both pity and disgust from the viewer in a powerful performance.

 

The stern yet lovable Du Nois, a character with several significant changes, is played skillfully by John Cox.

 

Richemont, the French nobleman turned English sympathizer, is a villain to curdle your blood as played by Harrison Beckmann.

 

Kaitlyn Chisholm plays one of this play’s saddest characters, Camouse’s widow. Her inward hysteria escapes in several chilling outbursts, making her quiet, yet thoroughly insane, demeanor all the more terrifying.

 

The various soldiers on both the English and French sides carry out their roles with gusto. Their war cries and battle scenes, while a challenging task for any cast, never fall flat, and they maintain fantastic energy throughout.

 

Last but not least, Diana Little plays Joan with an accessible quality I honestly didn’t think could be achieved with this character. Not only is her Joan devout, bold and patriotic – as expected – she is also shy, self-deprecating and vulnerable to – spoiler! – feelings of love.

Theatre Arts-Joan of Arc

Yes, Joan is burned at the stake for witchcraft in the end, but you all know that. In some of the most inspiring words spoken in this show, Joan expresses the desire to “To walk the earth as one who’s home is heaven.” This show will push you to do just that.

 

Bio_Shots-3 ~By Katrina Gass

To Kill a Mocking Bird

In Play Reviews on February 24, 2014 at 7:51 pm

A Brief Review and Critical Analysis

Such a classic American tale as To Kill a Mocking Bird is undoubtedly going to be received with a variety of expectations. I know I had high expectations when I first saw this production staged in 2009 by the Judson Theatre Company from New York in Appleton, WI. That production was largely unsatisfying – primarily because such a powerfully character driven story requires a certain level of intimacy that the Fox Cities Center for the Performing Arts just could not provide. Though their adult cast were all from the Actor’s Equity Association, and their child actors were incredibly dynamic considering the challenges of such a large venue, and the nature of a traveling show, I never felt as though I truly cared for the characters.

On one hand, it is not fair to compare and contrast these two productions, as they were different scripts done by different organizations for different purposes – but on the other hand, I was so struck by how stark the contrast indeed was that I would be remiss not to mention it. Having a mixed experience with Performance Hall (BJU) productions, I did not know what to expect when I entered the theatre. My very critical eye immediately thought the set to be awkward and isolating. A small, picket fence sliced a whole section of the main playing area into a strange shape. I wondered if it may serve to alienate (in a bad way) those observing action on the other side of it. Similarly, a tire-swing hanging from the light grid upstage right hung loosely – seemingly for little purpose. Other than that, the attempts at non-realistic houses seemed somewhat forced and jarring. (more on this later)

to kill a mockingbird

However, as is commonly thought, a play is only as good as its written material. Whether or not you subscribe to that notion, it must be observed that To Kill a Mockingbird is indeed a great place to start as far as dramatic literature is concerned. The play opens with the aged version of the character Scout narrating the given circumstances of the story. I was hesitant at first, as exposited narration has been met with varied success in the past, in my small experience. However, the actress narrating proved strong, enjoyable, and helped grease the overall dramatic action so that it ran nice and smooth.

During this opening bit we first saw the young Scout. The young actress took to the tire swing with such comfortable confidence that even without a word being spoken, we all believed her. It was in this moment when my mind was completely changed regarding the nature of the set. Perhaps it was due to my sitting so near the swing, but I could enjoy every small and innocent moment portrayed by all three child actors. They shared an obvious camaraderie and ease that many adult actors spend a life time searching for. And Stanislavski would likely have approved, because the swing seemed to serve as Scout’s first circle of attention, a physical and tangible connection to the world of the play – not that I believe the child was aware of this, but it certainly seemed to be the case. Similarly, in this vein, the set was incredibly versatile – giving you just enough to let your imagination artfully fill in the blanks. And the lighting guided your focus seamlessly to do so.

I never really noticed a “weakest link” as far as the acting was concerned, though there was an obviously diverse range of experience – but it never bothered me. Furthermore, the performance of Atticus by Ellis Schoolfield was exemplary. He brought the likeable “John Doe” qualities that make up who Atticus is to a very tangible light. His meek eccentricities made for an enriching experience, and helped to build to such a hard climax, as his virtuous zeal for equality and justice was ever reflected in the children’s innocence, and contrasted by the horrid state of the Caucasian majority.

On this note, it must be stated that the overall tone of the show was incredibly positive – even in the face of tragic defeat, and loss. There was a clear redemption that could be seen in the deep impact Atticus’ actions and choices had on Scout. Despite my initial criticisms of the set and layout, it was quickly made apparent to me that all the choices were intentional, and served the play very well. If I had one strong criticism that I firmly believe should have been changed, it was the audio levels of the music. Beautiful as it was, it did occasionally overpower the actor’s from where I was sitting.

to kill a mockingbird set

In conclusion, I congratulate Paul Jutras and Ellis Schoolfield, and the cast and crew of To Kill a Mockingbird on a job well done, and a powerful show as a result. Paul demonstrated his skill bringing all the collaborative aspects into a tight, cohesive whole. Working with children only complicates the directing process, and he was incredibly successful. Staging a beloved classic can be equally challenging in the face of expectations, and he was incredibly successful. Walking the fine line between didacticism, and powerfully lived out truth can indeed be challenging as well, and he was incredibly successful. It’s a show I should have liked to see again.

vp130821566358a-jpg By Johnathan Schofield